Some silver jewellery by West Coast First Nations (Canada) artists

I thought it’d be fun to share some jewellery pieces by First Nations silver artists from my home province of British Columbia, Canada. All of these are from Vancouver Island, with one possible exception. As is fairly typical with FN silver, they are all incised with the artist’s initials, rather than being stamped.

From left to right:

  • Raven pendant by Don Lancaster (signed DLL)
  • Salmon pendant/brooch by Alfred Seaweed (signed AIS)
  • Bear brooch by Norman Seaweed (signed NS)
  • Mystery pendant by unknown artist (signed with an “N” [?] written in script, plus the numbers 89 – presumably the year it was made)

The last one, with the distinctive hammering around 3 of the ovoids, is of a style I haven’t seen locally. I think it may possibly have been made by a First Nations artist from much further north (perhaps Haida, Ts’msyen, Tahltan…?). I discovered it at a local consignment store, and bought it despite the lack of provenance, both because I liked it and I love a good mystery!

What do you think the mark is: a flourishy “N” or perhaps a “JL”? And what creature does it depict? Every time I think it’s possibly creature X, I see elements that are distinctly not-X. This will probably nag at me until the end of time :laughing:

Unfortunately I’m unaware of any catalogues of Canadian First Nations silversmith marks. The excellent book Understanding Northwest Coast Indigenous Jewelry does feature some 50 artists, but it’s an overview only, tending to focus on the artists showcased by the Latimer Gallery. (Some of my favourites are missing from this book.) And one ongoing challenge that will sound familiar is that while online shops selling new pieces often include a profile/bio of the artist, they rarely include photos of the back. This can make it hard to identify a piece’s maker after the fact, even when it is faithfully and consistently marked by the artist.


Wonderful craftsmanship. Some of the pieces remind me of South American works.

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Love these! Especially the salmon. I have seen the bear face before, but didn’t know that’s what it was. The artist of my piece states in his bio that he was taught by Alfred Seaweed. Thanks for posting these!

I don’t know what letters are in the hallmark but I see this little bee…

Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine living in BC, what an amazing place. We only got as far up as Tofino on the island, but it was a trip we will never forget.


BTW, just being goofy about the bee :laughing:

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@Ziacat, the writing is so hard to interpret, you could be right about the bee :wink:

And oh, I really love the bear! I remember, as a teenager, longing to find a piece of West Coast silver jewellery with a bear on it. But in my corner of Ontario, it was hard to find any jewellery by First Nations artists, much less something so specific. When I moved out here and found that brooch, I was over the moon. It isn’t big, but to me it is adorable :heart_eyes:

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Living in the PNW I too have a love of West Coast/North Coast First Nations artwork in both jewelry and framed art ~ I don’t know who the artists are…


What part of Ontario? Beautiful province, feels a bit like home to me since we spent so much time there.

@RedlandMaggie, what interesting and appealing pieces! I like the Thunderbird very much, and also the bear earrings. The bracelet style looks vaguely familiar… are there any initials on the inside? It’s a beauty.

I grew up in Ottawa—have you been there, @Ziacat? I’d love to hear which parts of Ontario you know. I’ve lived in several places and have relatives in still more. I love B.C. very much but I do miss the eastern autumns!

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OOH! i have a small but growing collection too. These can be hard to find when you live in Missouri!

“Wolf” earrings, unidentified hallmark

Raven earrings, unidentified hallmark

Eagle earrings, Barry Wilson

Formline and hammered bracelet, attributed British Columbia, unknown maker, stamped STERLING

Don Lancaster Ring, Bear?

Jean Ferrier (Metal Arts Group, anglo) Sisiutl bracelet

I also have a tiny sterling orca MAG pendant, but can’t find an image right now on my phone.

i LOVE PNW formline work. thank you for opening this thread!


Gorgeous pieces @Jemez2! I think I like this stuff because they’re sleek, and for some reason remind me a bit of Hopi work. And all the animals of course :grin:


Twice we had plans to go to Ottawa that fell through. I’ve also been to Toronto twice, and way back visited a friend in Windsor.

When I was very small, we would go west across the top of Lake Superior, and then further west to Lake of the Woods near the Manitoba border. We attended a few pow wows there, and dad would hire Native guides to take him fishing. In my later years we went east of Sault Ste. Marie to a smaller lake near Thessalon close to Lake Huron. They had a totem pole by the lodge. Most recently we spent time in Wawa and Lake Superior Provincial Park.

To this day the phrase “up north” just makes me happy.

My parents bought a fair amount of Native and other Canadian art while in Ontario, but my favorites were the Inuit sculptures.


Found this thread on a FB group i belong to regarding your mystery pendant - verrrry similar hallmark to yours, and a year later.

Looks like it was identified as Norman Jackson, Tlingit, from Ketchikan!


@Jemez2, those are all lovely pieces! Thank you for sharing them! The sisiutl isn’t one I’ve seen often; it’s such a fascinating design, and of course perfect for a bracelet :wink: A great collection altogether, and pretty amazing too given your distance from the Northwest :two_hearts:

If you’d like to share a photo of the backs of the first two, I’ll let you know if I recognize the marks.

Re: your “bear?” ring, I think maybe it’s a wolf? Here’s what Dawkins has to say in his book Understanding Northwest Coast Indigenous Jewelry:

Bear vs. Wolf

Bears and wolves can be remarkably difficult to tell apart on small pieces of jewelry, especially when they are shown in profile. To distinguish between these animals, start by looking at the snout. Bears have short, rounded snouts.

Wolves are usually portrayed with longer, squarer snouts. Next, take a look at the tail.

Bears have short tails and wolves have long, bushy ones. Bears are often illustrated with bared teeth and protruding tongues. Wolves’ tongues are rarely included in jewelry designs, but their paws are often predominant.

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@Ziacat, that is such an evocative answer, thank you. What a rich and varied experience of First Nations and Inuit art and culture you surely had in your childhood. The postcard of the lodge with totem pole is really resonant with that. I don’t know the areas around Lake Superior that you visited and loved so much, but I have a sympathetic vibe from it from having seen so much of the Canadian shield in artwork by the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson. And I’m so glad you had the chance to attend pow wows there! When I lived in Ontario I managed to get to only one – an international pow wow at the SkyDome in Toronto, in 1992 I think it was. It was lovely but lacked the intimacy of smaller community pow wows.

I share your love of Inuit sculptures, by the way. For years I had associated the words “Inuit sculptures” exclusively with the mass-produced chalky carvings you see in inexpensive tourist shops. But then around 1990, my then boss gave me a special assignment to visit art galleries in downtown Toronto and make a shortlist of 10 Inuit sculptures, from which he would choose 3 as gifts (to give to the owners, who were about to visit from Switzerland). Over two days I got a crash course in Inuit sculptures and fell in love with them. The only problem was that as I was looking at very high-end sculptures, not only was I looking at the best of the best, I couldn’t afford any of them myself :laughing: Anyway, my boss chose 3, I went back to buy them, and they were duly presented to our guests, who seemed to like them. Lucky Swiss persons!!


@Jemez2, thank you thank you thank you for finding this! I didn’t really have any hope of finding out who had made my pendant, and am utterly thrilled to learn who it was. An American Tlingit artist named Norman Jackson from Ketchikan! (btw there are also some Tlingit First Nations people in northern British Columbia and the Yukon, but most are on the U.S. side of the border)

I’ll have to poke around and see if I can learn more about this artist. Isn’t this exciting! And feeling also a bit pleased that I pegged it as possibly from further north. Well, Alaska certainly qualifies, ha ha :wink: It is very VERY sweet now to know this is a piece by a NW First Nations artist from Ketchikan, and that I have his name – that makes it even more precious to me.

Thank you again! I appreciate this so much!! You’ve made my day :heart_eyes:


chamekke - i have the Dawkins book - it was an xmas present to myself last year! :wink:

the Lancaster (see the DLL hallmark!) ring I’m pretty sure is a bear. Here are a couple more angles:

The wolf earrings hallmark - one has “wolf” on the back, and the other has this odd glyph:


the raven earrings - one has this on the back (sorry for the dark blurry image)

That SE AK attributions facebook page wasn’t able to ID either of the earrings. I welcome your thoughts!


@Jemez2, my bad, I agree with you 100% about the Don Lancaster piece being a bear. Those extra pics sealed it :slight_smile: (and it’s a gorgeous ring BTW!)

I don’t have any idea about the first 2 mystery marks of yours, I’m afraid. I haven’t seen anything like either one. Although I’ll keep a lookout now, of course.

However, the last one–your raven earring–I can identify. It’s the mark of Travis Henry, a Coast Salish silversmith here on Vancouver Island. I’m not sure why the first part of his mark looks more like the Roman numeral II :laughing: but it’s definitely his! I have several pieces of his and the mark is identical. Some examples:

Mark on the inside of a sea otter ring:

Mark on raven earrings:

Mark on eagle earrings:

And just for show and tell, I bought a pair of butterfly earrings that I really liked – got them home, looked on the back, and realized that neither had a mark! (Usually, with earrings, one bears the maker’s initials.) I then took an even closer look and realized that although the earrings are very similar, they are not quite identical. They were from 2 different earring pairs!

So I took them back in and showed them to the owner of the shop where I’d bought them. We surmised that someone else had bought the other 2 mismatches and that person had 2 sets of initials on their earrings! In any case, the owner (the much missed Dolly Bond) examined them closely and confirmed these were Travis Hunt’s style. Here’s the pair:


The pic is actually a photo that got converted from our old polaroid slides, hence the graininess. The totem pole was out in front of the lodge near Lake Huron where we stayed.

Unfortunately I was so little when we went to those powwows that I barely remember them. I think they were pretty small and mostly local people. My brother told me that one time one of the Native gentleman took me out with him during one of the dances. I wish we had a picture of that.

I think we were fortunate to see such nice art in a bit of an out of the way area (at least back then it was not very touristy). This is my favorite of the carvings my parents bought back in the day in Thessalon.


I love all this jewelry…

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